Friday, April 11, 2014

Moving On

When I was a child I routinely had to walk up the slatted staircase of the church where my family worshipped.  It was a modern design and you could see the floor beneath as you climbed ever higher.  I used to shake with fear.  I hated it.  On a bad day my father would have to carry me.  Yes, I’m scared of heights, I hate looking down and seeing what’s below me.  For someone who’s felt female for the whole of her life but has the wrong body parts, looking down is something you hate doing. That’s been my experience since I was three years old: Before that I can’t remember. When you look down you see that you’re different to every other female you know.  Why was I different to my Mommy? Why was I different to my friend Julie across the road? Why was different to every other girl in the street? It made me feel like a freak.

I came to realise 10 years ago as I came out that I also hate looking back.  Looking back reminded me of having to act a part that was never me, of having to battle through life as a woman with facial hair and the wrong genitalia; filled like poison with the wrong hormones and desperately unhappy.  Looking back was just as painful as looking down and I had an extreme aversion to doing it.  My therapist sought to change all that. He guided me through the process of confronting my past and facing it.  He also encouraged me to write this blog; almost one hundred posts filled with a chronicle of my experiences: Experiences and feelings that I had locked away and needed to face before moving on. Writing the Blog and looking back gave me perspective.

How would you define perspective? A mental attitude or viewpoint? one allowing you to see things in their true proportions and accurately?  That’s how it has been for me anyway and the sense of perspective I shied away from so long has finally lead to a resolution:  12 months on from surgery I’m feeling very different. So much has changed and I’m now in a very different place.  A year ago, everything was quite literally raw and sore; an open wound that had been painful throughout my whole life. If I take the long view and look back I see the same thing over and over, dwindling down until it becomes a distant pinpoint: I see nothing but a girl who was forced to act a part. So where does that leave me?

It leaves me where I am now with a (belated) realisation that I’ve never been anything else; a girl with a difficult beginning in life; an unhappy young woman who did her best to fit in at college and failed; a woman who found solace and fulfilment in motherhood but never fell in love; a woman who found herself in the end and came to realise her dreams; all of these, always female.  If I you want to consider me a T-Girl I’m a natal one.  An NTG if you will.  However, I hate categories and sub-categories.  I’ll just go with what’s on my birth certificate and that’s ‘Girl’. 12 months after GRS I know longer feel Trans.  Gender Dysphoria has long since gone to be replaced by Euphoria.  I’m happy with my female gender as it is. My history may be a little different to most girls but I grew up one and I am one all the same, period.

So that’s it.  This is the point where this particular blog comes to an end and this is the final posting.  I will keep the “Retrobassgirl” Blog up online.  Please feel free to continue to comment and I will respond. In the meantime I’m starting a new one: “Jane’s Essential Addictions” I want to write about where I am now as a woman, as a girlfriend and about the things a girl can’t do without; everything from sex and love to food and fashion.

So here goes :)


Jane xx

Friday, April 4, 2014

Celebrating TRANS*Parentcy

When I was a student I remember buying a glass tea set.  It was useful because it was so cheap but I was also captivated by the way it presented things.  Making and consuming hot drinks became a delight. Fruit infusions could be appreciated for their delicate rose colours.; fresh mint tea showed off it’s beautiful leaves; freshly black coffee looked rich and an opaque deep brown.  Transparent crockery lets you see what you are drinking. Whilst I had the set I stopped taking milk in tea so that I could marvel at the diversity of colour it gave, from Pale Jasmine Blossom to dark Assam. Diversity, difference and authenticity all came with transparency. In a way it’s a metaphor for being who you truly are; for being clear and open about your self. So what about parenting? Does transparency have any relevance apart from he title of my blog? I happen to think it does.  Transparency in a person is about being honest and true, about NOT hiding who you really are.

Trans* parents have long since had a rough ride when it comes to child rearing. Heavily criticised in the past for breaking up families, harming their children and damaging relationships; Trans* parents have got a bad press.  I have lost count of the number of comments containing expletives which condemned my decision to come out ten years ago.  Those comments have focussed on blaming me for imagined damage caused to my family.  One relative used the occasion of my father’s funeral to tell me that he could never forgive me for the harm I had ‘done’ to my ex and children. Psychologists too were quick to blame my Trans status for my offspring’s difficulties; ones later ascribed by their colleagues to external causes. More recently, an individual who scarcely knows me referred to myself and my partner as ‘fucked up parents’. Because of such attitudes, many Trans* men and women lose their spouses and also their children: They witness the disintegration of close and much loved relationships. On coming out, Trans* individuals may also lose close friends and members of their extended family.  In written correspondence with one Trans woman I was told: “I quite literally gave up absolutely everything: I have nowhere to live, no wife, no kids, no mates….”. 

Are scenarios like the one above extreme and uncommon? I really don’t know.  I’d like to think not.  I know relatively few other Trans* Parents and seem myself to have had something of an easy ride.  I realise that I’m fortunate. I’m a highly educated white professional woman who has seldom been out of work.  I have a close and friendly relationship with my ex partner and we enjoyed an easy, mutually agreed and relatively seamless annulment of our 27 year marriage.  We have continued to enjoy each other’s company, taken joint holidays and carried on a sisterly relationship. We have supported our family co-operatively, with love and understanding: We just don’t live in the same place any more.  This isn’t to say that there have not been difficult times; there are in every marriage.  As joint parents of our two girls we have had to cope with the distress and joys of supporting one child with disabilities and another who felt alienated at school.  We put one of our children through independent school and the other has just graduated College.  We are proud of what they have achieved in the face of their own set of challenges as adults. One is now a dance teacher and one works in retail.  We love them both dearly.

Adaptation has been the key to coping with challenges and change.  As a family we have had to adapt to living apart: My eldest lives in the South, my ex in an adjacent county.  We have had to adapt to a family in which both parents are women with their own distinct personalties; where we have new and distinct sets of friends and where one of us has a new partner. We have adjusted by making sure that there is always a welcome in both our homes and that our two daughters have the chance to stay in touch. True, along the way there have been casualties.  Intolerance within my ex partner’s extended family has meant some strained relationships and being exposed to bigotry (my blog has been witness to that). Though warm hearted and close tin the initial years of my transition, my eldest daughter is now more distant. 

Since I found a new partner there have been other changes too.  We now have a man in a household which was once all female.  The dynamics of our family have shifted. It has meant sharing love and ensuring that there is enough to go round. I have coped with seeing my daughter very much in love and in a relationship.  She in turn has adapted to seeing me give my love to a wonderful guy, Martin, who returns that precious gift a thousand times over. Our apartment is now tidier and more ordered with three people in it; broken things have been fixed. There is now a Dad as well as a Mum in my daughter’s life.  My partner is also Trans*.  Sometimes he presents as female.  My daughter relates well to that and sometimes I wonder why. Why is she so accepting of diversity and so welcoming? It can’t have been easy for see a new man in my life. More recently my youngest came out as Lesbian and she too has encountered new challenges.  It isn’t my place to chronicle them here.  She has her own blog and I have seen her use it continually to grow and make sense of her world.  What has struck me throughout is the extent to which she has drawn on new skills and strengths to move forward.  It made me think. ‘How has having Trans* parents helped my daughters?’. ‘What strengths can a family with Trans* parents give to their children?’ It has prompted me to examine what both I and my new partner have given to our family besides a good home and love.

First and foremost I believe that we have presented a true, positive role model. As Trans* Parents we have had to struggle with our own definition of who we are and how society chooses to define us.  We have explored, embraced and finally come to celebrate and be proud of OUR diversity. So many parents live a lie, failing to be authentic and true to themselves. They hide from problems and issues. They struggle to keep up appearances by appearing ‘normal’ and ‘fitting in’.  When children of families such as these encounter diversity they may see it as deviance from the ‘norm’ (whatever that is) and respond to it with hatred and intolerance.  As an educator, it is a trend I see repeated so often in the classroom. I see none of that in my own family. I have been proud to see how well my daughter has coped with embracing and rejoicing in her own sexual orientation. I believe that in learning how to cope with our own gender identities we have also helped her define her sexual orientation.

I believe that as Trans* parents we have also successfully promoted self advocacy; the ability to speak out, stand up for your rights and validate your value within the community.  Self advocating individuals are generally strong people; capable of coping intelligently with challenges and setbacks. People who are an inspiration to others. I have seen my daughter empowered to cope with homophobia as well as being willing and ready to advocate the rights of her friends.

As a Trans* parent I have become a better listener and a more understanding person.  Having had to encounter bigotry and counter it, I am more open to listening to the opinions and viewpoints of others.  I have become acutely aware of my own stereotypes and prejudices, particularly towards those outside the LGBT community.  It has made me work harder to see others more clearly, to appreciate their diversity and to encourage my daughters to do the same.

Finally, for those who claim that having a Trans* parent makes a child more vulnerable and open to hatred, I have this to say: Hate is everywhere, if you don’t fit in or are in anyway different you will encounter it.  Having a Trans* parent is no different in that respect to having a Hispanic one, or one who is Disabled.  Seeing their parents struggle against prejudice and overcome it has made my children stronger, not weaker. It has equipped them well, not only to combat hatred but to strive to change it.  I see them prepared not only to cope better with Society as it is but to be the forerunners of bringing forward the diverse and caring Society that should be.

Trans* parents ARE transparent.  They are authentic individuals, ones who know themselves well through their struggle to be who they truly are.  Rather than frowning on Trans* and Gay parenthood we should celebrate it for the force it gives to moulding a better and more equal world.


Jane xx